Understanding Bias
Average Duration
70+ Minutes
Difficulty Level
4
Lesson Host
Indira Lakshmanan
of National Geographic
About

Understand news media bias by learning about five types of bias and five ways it can manifest itself, as well as methods for minimizing it.

News literacy topics

Bias; Digital citizenship; News judgment; Opinion; Standards of quality journalism

Learning objectives

  • I can explain how bias in news coverage is a complex issue.
  • I can discuss the role people’s own biases play in perceptions of bias in media.
  • I can recognize five types of bias (partisan, demographic, corporate, “big story,” and neutrality) and five forms (framing, absence of fairness and balance, tone, story selection, and sourcing) these biases can take in news coverage.

Essential questions

  • Is it possible for a piece of information to be completely unbiased or objective?
  • Are there degrees of bias?
  • Most people know about political or “partisan” bias. What are some other kinds of biases people have?
  • How do biases show themselves in news coverage?
  • Do our own biases affect the way that we perceive news coverage?
  • What can journalists and other creators of information do to minimize the influence of their personal biases? How can the standards of quality journalism help them do this?
  • Why is it important to understand the differences between opinion journalism and straight news journalism before discussing bias?

Excerpt

“When gathering information and reporting news stories, journalists follow standards designed to strip away the influence of their own conscious or unconscious biases. After all, who among us can be truly ‘objective’? We’re humans with different backgrounds who bring different perspectives to the table, and we’re all fallible, no matter how rigorous our process. But one thing we all can and must be as journalists is ‘impartial’ in the way we gather and present facts and information. Many people — adults as well as students — confuse commentators, columnists and other opinion journalists with news reporters. They aren’t the same. Most news organizations have both news and opinion journalists, but it’s only the news reporters who are supposed to be unbiased. In fact, the opinion staff and news staff report to different bosses. At many news organizations, the news and the editorial staff are physically separated and might even work on different floors.”